‘Have you worked’ or ‘Have you been working’? Let’s find out right now.

Happy Monday, my dear!
I hope this finds your week off to a great start.
Remember, if Mondays suck for you, this doesn’t mean that Mondays suck. It means your job sucks!

I’d like to deal with a common problem when it comes to English grammar: What is the difference between ‘I have worked’ and ‘I have been working’?

Let’s clear it up right now.

First off, they are BOTH used for situations that are still going on. If you started working at that naked campsite in 2013, you could say ‘I have worked there for 5 years’ or ‘I have been working there for 5 years.’ So far, so good. (Oh, and remember. If you say ‘I worked there for 5 years’, this means that you don’t work there anywhere else. You now work at a campsite where people are only naked in the shower, for example.)

But I digress. Let’s get back to business.

There are a couple of differences between the 2 forms stated above, and they have to do with the ‘ing’ form of the verb representing an ‘active’ form of the verb. Let me explain. If you come up to me, your eyes are wet, and you look sad (which never happens, as when my clients see me they burst into jingles of spontaneous joy, but let’s pretend for a moment here), I would ask you ‘Have you been crying?’. I would NOT say (even if I was drunk) ‘Have you cried?’. Why not? Because I see something NOW that relates to the ACTION of the verb. I would say ‘Have you cried’ in another situation – like ‘Have you ever cried while watching a Merci commercial at Christmastime? I sure have!” (Not hypothetical.)

Another example. If I see you, and you are sweaty and out of breath, I would ask ‘Have you been running?’, as I see something NOW that relates to an action. I would ask you ‘Have you ever run a marathon?’ when I am asking you about things you have done in your life, up till now.

Another one. You could say ‘I have painted 3 houses this month.’ Yeah for you! This is the result of what you have done so far this month. And then you could say ‘I’ve been painting my cousin’s house all day’ , which means that this particular action is NOT finished. Let’s say my brother is a writer. I could say ‘He’s written 5 books so far, and he’s been working on a new book about the history of twerking.’ So interesting!

One more – you could say ‘I’ve worked here for 3 years’ which is correct and kind of ‘neutral’ in its feeling, but if you say ‘I’ve been working here for 3 years and I STILL don’t have my own paperclip dispenser!’, this shows frustration and irritation as it focuses on the action. (TIP: If your boss asks you about that urgent report, just say ‘I’ve been working on it all day’, which makes you sound like you’ve been working non-stop- like you even gave up your coffee break WITH the donut for that damn report.)

Sidebar: Certain non-active verbs (which are verbs that take place INSIDE of you, like a little grammar parasite, and don’t have an action that you can see externally)  do NOT take the ‘ing’ form in these situations. You can NOT say ‘I’ve been knowing him for 2 years.’ That’s weird. You also can’t say ‘I’ve been belonging to that tennis club since 2007.’ That’s mega ultra totally weird. Just so you know. Save your wierdness for the dance floor.

That’s all for now my dear, I hope this newsletter felt like a machete cutting through the jungle of grammar and clearing a path to sanity. Just call me Indiana Jones Duberman!

Stay sharp.
X buffi

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